Did you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints joined in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokenness. —Martin Smith
Do you want to be healed? How deep do you want to go? How much truth can you bear? We can get so comfortable in our false stories, and our own brokenness that these questions become difficult to answer. I think this was why Christ asked the seemingly ridiculous question to the man at the pool in Bethesda, “Do you want to be healed?” The man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years! I was faced with the same question last Sunday night as I sat in a hotel hot-tub in Seattle, Washington. I honestly did not know how to answer.
From Eden a river flowed to water the park, which on leaving the park branched into four streams. —Gen. 2:10
In his book ‘Waking the Dead’ John Eldredge explains that the way God restores us is predominantly through four streams: Discipleship (walking with God), Spiritual Warfare, Counseling, and Healing. To be honest, until recently I never gave much value to counseling–mainly because I have had so much of it with little good result. In fact I could probably say that the one truly good thing that I’ve received was when a counselor recommended I read the book “The Sacred Romance.” That book led to a string of events that has forged an otherwise impossible change in me–the latest of which is a dive (maybe more of a trip and fall) into the stream of Counseling.
In the Ransomed Heart Ministry audio resource called The Four Streams, John says that Counseling is “The intimate counsel of the Holy Spirit bringing truth into the depth of our hearts.” He makes a distinction between the clinical type of counseling and the Counseling of the Holy Spirit, but my experience included both.
This took place during a group session at the school in Seattle where I am taking a course in Lay Counseling. I love every person in my group, but I have to admit that when I’m sitting there, sometimes I can’t quite shake the bewildered feeling that I had in my teenage years being in group therapy. In those days I felt like I was under a microscope being searched for any speck of immorality or mental illness that would ultimately determine how long I was to be institutionalized. My job, I thought, was to appear in as good a shape as was necessary to get me released. In other words, to pretend (pretend sounds better than lie) in order to keep them from knowing the real me which I was sure would warrant a lifetime commitment. Now that I say that out loud, I understand why I never valued counseling.
During one of the silences in our group time I felt nudged by the Spirit to share something that took place in my early teens. It didn’t seem like a memorable event, but for some reason I’ve held on to it for all these years. I can’t share the details, but It was a fairly normal (so I thought) occurrence between me and another person. When I was asked how I felt about it I think I used words like “it felt weird, and gross.” One lady said something like “those are words my 13 year-old would use.” I immediately noticed that, in that moment, I felt exactly that age. I felt awkward and nervous; the blood was rushing to my head…I was 13 again.
The group facilitator then asked a question that led to an aha moment. She asked what I would say to that 13-year-old and I was surprised and disappointed in my answer, “I would tell him he is wrong to feel weird.” In that instance I saw how much I mistrusted my own intuition, and how often I had shut it down out of pure shame. What I saw in the faces of the other group members was revulsion at what happened to me. They were witnesses for that 13-year-old boy. They validated his intuition by agreeing with what he felt; that it was weird (and much more). All these years I felt wrong for thinking badly of the other person in this story. I shut down that part of me, and refused to let that kid have a voice.
Something broke loose, and that place in me felt freed. It is incredibly sad how often I haven’t let myself speak because I didn’t trust what I would say. I was editing the purest part of me. I was holding myself in contempt. My heart was not allowed expression because of a lie–that it can’t be trusted. For the rest of the day I felt at ease, like I wasn’t so screwed up that I couldn’t trust my own heart, and that my God-given intuition was, in fact, trustworthy. I couldn’t remember feeling that way since I was a child.
Another thing that one of the group members said proved to be prophetic. He said “for a while nothing will make sense, up will be down and down will be up, everything will be backwards.” He was right, and that is what led me to the question in the hot-tub. I was overcome by truth. My very foundations were shaken; things I had believed about myself, my family, my world, everything was turned on its head. While it felt very good to be validated, and to begin to trust my intuition, it also meant I had to accept that reality is not what it was just a couple of days ago. Yes, I did want to learn counseling, but this was way more than I signed up for–and I am only half-way through! I felt a strong pull to not continue down this path; it is too painful, and I don’t know how to live in my new reality. In fact, I knew without a doubt that I couldn’t. I told God I couldn’t.
That’s when I knew that God was calling me to live a life that I absolutely could not live without Him. Oh, and I had even asked Him for this life; I just didn’t know what it would look like, or feel like. He is calling me to risk, to come a little further than Ive previously been willing to go, and it is scary. I spent the next day flying home to Arkansas, and on the plane as I listened to the song “In Over My Head” by Bethel, the tears were flowing, and I didn’t care what anyone thought– I just let them come. The tears were acknowledging my apprehension, but they were also saying “Thank-you God for trusting me with this truth.”
“I’m standing knee-deep but I’m out where I’ve never been
And I feel you coming and I hear your voice on the wind.
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like whatever may come, I am yours.” – Bethel, (In Over My Head)